Monday, December 10, 2012

Court of Appeal Gives Defendants Limited Access to Witness Statements in IA Files

In Rezek v. Superior Court (2012) 206 Cal. App. 4th 633, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, ruled witnesses statements in peace officers personnel files can be turned over to defendants in criminal cases under some circumstances. In this case, officers arrested a defendant for obstruction of justice. The defendant also filed a citizen complaint against the officers. IA investigated the complaint and took statements from witnesses. The DA charged the defendant who then filed a Pitchess motion for the witness statements.

The Fourth District decided defendants can get those statements if they submit a supporting declaration proposing a defense and articulate how the requested discovery may be admissible in support of the proposed defense, or how the requested discovery may lead to such evidence. The court disagreed with the city’s argument that Penal Code section 1045.1, which requires the prosecutor to disclose to the defense relevant witness statements, is the exclusive means by which a defendant may obtain such statements.